Cornell to implement revised event-planning procedures

Each year, hundreds of student organizations on Cornell’s Ithaca campus host special events, ranging from small public receptions to major undertakings that feature hundreds of participants, multiple venues, entertainment, food, beverages, dignitaries and security measures.

To better support student event planners, the university is revising its procedures effective July 1, and updating its online tools this summer. Meetings are underway to inform event planners about these proposed changes and gather campus input.

“Part of Cornell’s robust student experience stems from its student-planned events,” said Vijay Pendakur, Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students. “But event planning is complicated and we want to better support our students. The revised procedures allow more time for planning and provide a more predictable structure of security costs.”

To buffer unforeseen security costs – if, for instance, a larger-than-expected turnout occurs – Cornell will contribute the first $1,000 of costs incurred above the security fee quoted by Cornell University Police (CUP), he said.

Much of the event planning process will not change. As in the past, event planners are asked to submit an Event Registration Form (ERF) for certain special events, such as when alcohol is served, a dignitary is speaking, or when an event could be seen as controversial or high risk. The ERF will need to be submitted at least four weeks in advance of the event, rather than the current three.

“The ERF helps you think through your event and all the components that go into it,” said Mary Beth Grant, J.D. ’88, senior associate dean of students. “The new procedures will emphasize the use of the ERF to assist in that process.”

In many cases, a student event planner also meets with the university’s Event Management Planning Team (EMPT), which can help the event planner think through all aspects of their event. The EMPT includes representatives from several units across campus. Grant said the EMPT has the resources, expertise, ideas and institutional memory – what has worked and not worked in the past – to assist and advise.

The new guidelines also predict security costs for each type of event, depending on factors such as the size of the event, if alcohol is served and the risk the event poses, as determined by CUP. Many events will not require any security fees, Grant said. Minimal security events will range in security costs from about $300 to $600. Elevated security events costs will range from about $600 to $1,400. High-level security events will range from about $2,300 to $3,900.

Joseph Scaffido, director of campus activities, said the guidelines aim to provide predictability and fairness among student organizations, since the range of charges for each level of security will help those organizations determine in advance whether they can cover the security costs through their budget, or if they will need to charge a ticket price or ask for donations and sponsorships.

Deadlines also will be more strictly enforced, Scaffido said, and student events that do not meet these deadlines won’t be approved. Beginning July 1:

  • ERFs will need to be submitted at least four weeks prior to the event. Some student events not previously required to submit an ERF may be required to do so and some will no longer be required, as the ERF requirements will evolve. Changes to the Events Registration Form and Campus Activities websites will reflect those evolving requirements.
  • Organizers must contact or meet with CUP regarding security no later than three weeks prior to the event.
  • If security is needed, organizers must sign a contract for security and pay the security price no later than one week prior to the event.

Scaffido recommends organizations consult the Campus Activities website on a regular basis, as it has evolved over the course of 20 or more years, continually being updated. The site includes planning checklists, links to policies and links to the ERF, as well as other useful information. 

The website will be updated again in the next few months to reflect improvements to processes and new deadlines that will be effective July 1, Scaffido said.

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John Carberry